Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Revisiting the Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco Trade
By Ian Hunter
Mike Napoli spent a grand total of four days with the organization, but some would argue the ripple effects of his departure are still being felt today.
When the trade went down in January, it seemed like a bit of a head-scratcher as the Blue Jays were giving up a position player for a reliever with a history of injuries. At the time, I was so giddy Alex Anthopoulos was able to dump Vernon Wells' contract that it didn't really matter what happened after that.
Some are saying that this is one of AA's first big missteps as a General Manager. On the surface, Mike Napoli's 5.6 WAR season far outshone the 0.5 WAR season put together by Frank Francisco, but it's not quite that simple.
Of course, it sucks a little to watch Mike Napoli hit 30 home runs and post a .410 on base percentage for the team that the Blue Jays traded to him. I think it stings even more because Mike Napoli had the kind of season we had all hoped Adam Lind would have.
I believe Adam Lind is part of the reason why the Blue Jays traded away Mike Napoli in the first place. Simply put, they didn't really have a spot on the roster for Napoli after Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion had all the first base/designated hitter positions locked up.
Here's the part that stings about Mike Napoli's season in Texas: although he didn't get the minimum 502 at bats due to some injuries, Napoli still put together a career year in just 113 games played.
His .410 on base percentage ranked third in the American League behind only Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista (among batters who had at least 430 plate appearances). Napoli also ranked second in home runs per at bat with a ratio of 12.3 HR per AB (minimum 425 PA's).
Pro-rate those numbers to a 500 AB season and Mike Napoli could have possibly hit upwards of 40 home runs for the Texas Rangers. But who's to say he would've had the exact same season with the Toronto Blue Jays?
Mike Napoli is an extremely versatile utility player and would have no problem fitting into the lineup on most rosters, but the way Toronto's roster looked in January, frankly there was no place for him to get everyday at bats.
Had the Blue Jays not brought back Edwin Encarnacion on that one year contract plus an option, I'm almost certain Mike Napoli would have been slotted in as the full time DH.
Although he never said it outright, Alex Anthopoulos insinuated he gentleman's agreement with Edwin Encarnacion that EE would get the lion's share of at bats at DH. Thus eliminating the need for Mike Napoli on the Blue Jays roster, and instead Alex Anthopoulos flipped him for a commodity they really did need, a relief pitcher.
Player for player, Mike Napoli obviously had the much better season. Regardless of who it is, I'm never really in favour of trading position players for relievers. In my opinion, above average position players offer more value than solid relief pitching. I'd take a team of Mike Napoli's over a team of Craig Kimbrel's any day.
When you really think about, the Napoli/Francisco deal was the antithesis to the typical Alex Anthopoulos trade. Typically he attempts to acquire high ceiling talent, but at the very best the Blue Jays would've gotten a good reliever out of the deal.
On paper, it was a one-for-one trade with Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco, but I don't look at it that way. Essentially that trade was a sub-deal of the Vernon Wells deal. The trades never happened in succession, but I look at it as a three-team trade.
The Mike Napoli trade would not have happened had the Vernon Wells trade not gone down. After Alex Anthopoulos was able to ship Vernon's contract off to Los Angeles, anything that happened after that was a win.
When Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli came back in return from the Angels, the Blue Jays were playing with house money. It was basically a salary dump by the Angels, but Toronto did acquire two players of value in return, as well as getting $86 million off the books.
Viewing the trade in terms of just Mike Napoli and just Frank Francisco, then Alex Anthopoulos may have been a little trigger happy to get rid of Napoli and bring in Francisco. However, if you look at the bigger picture, that $86 million dollars shed in payroll is worth far more in the long run than Napoli's 5.6 WAR season in 2011.
If this trade ends up being one of the biggest "blunders" of the Alex Anthopoulos regime, then the Blue Jays will be in fine shape.